This post is part of the ‘Meet A GIC Volunteer’ series that highlights outstanding volunteers through their involvement with GIC and in their community.
Meet Chidera Igbokwe.
A chemical and biomolecular engineering student at the University of Maryland. In one semester, Chidera completed energy assessments for 15 local businesses, won a scholarship, and earned a paid sustainability internship.
Deciding Between Passion or Salary
Chidera was born and raised in the inner suburbs of Port Harcourt City, Nigeria. After graduating high school, she decided to take a gap year before college to figure out what she wanted to do. During that year, she found herself noticing all of the opportunities for growth, development, and social enterprise amongst the hustle and bustle of Nigeria’s busiest city.
Chidera became involved in service projects all around the city, and realized she was hooked, “When I wasn’t helping with a project to build a new orphanage in one of the local communities, I spent my time considering all of the possibilities – markets to be rebuilt, streets to be restored and rules to be reinforced – and making plans to dive into spaces that others were yet to discover.”
Like many passion-driven individuals, Chidera’s plans were not always shared by others.
“My family thought it would be a better idea to first get a safety net; a sturdy degree to fall back on if aspirations failed to turn into achievements,” explains Chidera.
She decided to go into chemical and biomolecular engineering, hoping that it would give her a competitive edge against the thousands of applicants looking to get hired in the uber-competitive crude oil industry in the Niger Delta.
Ms. Igbokwe Goes to University of Maryland
When Chidera first got to the University of Maryland, she, “went straight to work, all the thoughts of public good, resource management, and policy reform stored away in the ‘maybe later’ section of my mind. Whenever I was faced with a particularly difficult assignment that took days to complete, I would remind myself that Chemical Engineers earned a six-figure salary.” The six-figure salary motivation didn’t last long though.
In one of her classes, the professor assigned a project focused on coming up with solutions to real-world global problems. When it was time for the class to deliver their presentations, Chidera recalled, “the incredible depth and content of some of the presentations had my brain cells doing multiple standing ovations.”
She once again wanted to work with others, help the environment and be a part of something bigger than herself.
Impacting Her Community Through Energy Assessments
Chidera heard about Green Impact Campaign just after finishing helping out with an Engineers Without Borders project. The project focused on fitting a community school in Suma Ahenkro, Ghana with solar panels.
“Although I got to work on the logistics team for that particular project, I did not work directly with any members of the community, and I was on the hunt for another project that would give me the opportunity to do so,” Chidera recalls.
In the fall of 2015, Chidera decided to sign up for GIC’s Kilowatt Smackdown in Takoma Park, MD. After completing the training, Chidera was ready for her first assessment. But there were some initial nerves, “as an international student, I was extremely nervous when I did my first energy assessment. I worried that I would not sound very convincing when talking to business owners because of my accent.”
But a couple assessments later and Chidera was a pro, “eventually, I got more comfortable with the entire process, I knew all my lines and I learned to spot different kinds of light bulbs without having to look them up.”
Chidera would go on to complete energy assessments for 15 local businesses in Takoma Park, MD. Her efforts identified 28,000 kWh or $5,000 in annual energy savings for the business owners she helped.
In addition to fueling her interest to help members in her community and the environment, Chidera placed second in the Kilowatt Smackdown competition and was awarded a $1,500 scholarship and a paid internship with the City of Takoma Park’s Office of Sustainability, both sponsored by the city.
completed energy assessments
kWh of energy savings identified
energy cost savings identified
gals of water savings identified
The Next Generation of Climate Changemakers
Reflecting on her experience with GIC, Chidera claims that, “it was a very rewarding experience for me and it was very exciting to meet so many different people, each business had such a unique story to tell.”
Chidera hopes to one day work with either biomedical or energy-related research, with an organization that acknowledges its social responsibility. “I want people to become more aware of their surrounding communities and I want to provide others with opportunities for growth and development in underprivileged neighborhoods.”
We have no doubt that Chidera is on her way to becoming a changemaker in the energy field.
“I want people to become more aware of their surrounding communities and I want to provide others with opportunities for growth and development in underprivileged neighborhoods.” – Chidera Igbokwe
Want to become a GIC volunteer?
If you’re looking to get involved with Green Impact Campaign and conduct energy assessments for local businesses, sign up now to get started.
ABOUT GREEN IMPACT CAMPAIGN
Green Impact Campaign (GIC) is on a mission to reduce the environmental impact of small business while better equipping the next generation of climate leaders. We provide university students across the country with cloud-based tools and training to go out and conduct free energy assessments for local, small businesses in their community. Small businesses receive the custom, actionable information they need to make their business more energy efficiency and profitable. While student volunteers receive professional skills through hands-on experience for future impact careers.
Kilowatt Smackdown is our regional competition series where we select one community, town, or city to focus on. We work closely with local universities and partner organizations in the community to host an impactful and exciting sustainability initiative.
FOLLOW US HERE